An eminent constitutional expert, Prof. Nana Susubribi Krobea Boaten Asante, has expressed his disagreement with the numerous calls for constitutional review, saying that mere amendment of the text of the Constitution will not necessarily improve the fortunes of the country.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic, Prof. Nana Asante, who was the Chairman of the Committee of Experts that drafted constitutional proposals leading to the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution, said the expectation of a constitutional review had been “exaggerated”.
“In my humble view, we will not get development by just amending the Constitution. In fact, we will not get constitutionalism by just amending the text of the constitution.
“If you look at the history of many countries, economic take-off did not happen when there was a liberal constitutional order,” he said.
Prof. Nana Asante, who is also the Paramount Chief of the Asante Asokore Traditional Area, said instead of clamouring for the amendment of the text of the Constitution, the country should rather focus on the principles, values and tenets underpinning the document.
Such principles, he said, included an efficient and tolerant multi-party democratic system devoid of partisanship in the actual governance process, independent democratic institutions, such as the Judiciary and the Electoral Commission (EC), whose decisions would not be interpreted as partisan and accountability from government.
“I feel strongly that it should not merely be the language or the text of the Constitution; it should also be about the values. It is my strong belief that merely amending the text without a complete evaluation or reassessment of constitutional tenets and value will not lead to what we want to be,” he said.
For example, he said, the issue of political parties not accepting the results of elections and its potential for violence could not be resolved by an amendment of the Constitution, since there was no constitutional provision on such an issue.
However, he said, that issue could easily be resolved if the country adhered to the constitutional values of having confidence in the EC and the Judiciary.
“What can stop this or reduce the tension that characterises our elections is by inculcating constitutional values and principles,” he said.
Prof. Nana Asante further focused on the call for a constitutional review to place a cap on the number of ministers and justices of the Supreme Court that the President could appoint, saying such an amendment would not resolve the problem.
On the issue of capping the number of ministers, he said if that was done, the President could still appoint more people, not as ministers but presidential advisors and special assistants.
“This is exactly what happened when President Kufuor wanted to appoint a Prime Minister and they said it was not in the Constitution. So he appointed Mary Chinery-Hesse as Chief Advisor and J.H. Mensah as Senior Minister.
“The solution is, therefore, not to place a cap but for us to develop our constitutional values so that we get to a point where the President would not feel the need to appoint numerous ministers,” he added.
On the capping of justices of the Supreme Court, he said such a situation would harm the effective operation of the highest court of the land, since it had a wide jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court, he said, apart from its constitutional review jurisdiction, was the final appellate court, the court that decided presidential election petitions, among others.
“The court does not deal with only constitutional cases but also a myriad of other cases. In this regard, if you cap the number of justices, you are restricting the manpower to effectively deal with these cases, which ultimately hampers the justice delivery system,” he said.
The legal luminary, who is a former Deputy Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, was also of the opinion that the various calls for constitutional review were exercises in futility because the two main political parties in the country were not interested in a constitutional review.
According to him, since 1992, many civil society organisation had made extensive proposals for a constitutional review, but such proposals had not been implemented because of the lack of political will.
He said even the extensive work done by the constitutional review committee established by former President John Evans Atta Mills had not seen the light of day.
“My humble view is that the two major political parties are not really committed to a real review of the Constitution. They have not shown real leadership and involvement in the constitutional review process
“Those who have the will to review the Constitution do not have the power, while those who have the power do not have the will to do it,” he said.
Fit for purpose
When asked if the Constitution had served the country well and was fit for purpose, Prof. Nana Asante answered in the affirmative.
He explained that the Constitution was developed on some basic principles, which had helped the country to remain democratic for more than 30 years.
“These basic liberal constitutional principles were embedded and have, in fact, been translated into action and earned us the enviable reputation of being an oasis of constitutional and democratic stability in a very turbulent region.
“You cannot say that the Constitution has not served its purpose; it has served its purpose. However, this does not mean that everything is perfect,” he said.
According to him, what the country had failed to do after building its democracy was have an economic lift off to bring transformation to the people.